As the year approaches its finale, I thought I'd drum up a list of my favorite movies of the year. It hasn't been the best of years, but it hasn't been the worst either. Overall, it's been good and here a few of the films that I enjoyed a lot:
1) Hobo With A Shotgun - By far the best full features to come out of the Grindhouse fake trailers. This movie gave me so many reasons to be excited. For a start, it has made me excited about the director Jason Eisener. He's definitely one I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with in future. His next feature, Ultra Violence High, sounds like a blast already. Judging by his interviews, he more or less shares my taste of exploitation films that are ultra violent, but at the same time loves kid adventure movies. He's the only director who shares my almost exact tastes, therefore I can't wait to see what he has in store in future.
On to Hobo though - why did I love it? Well, there's a gazillion reasons. Despite being a throwback to the exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s, there's a freshness about this film that I've been wanted from a film for a number of years. Hobo manages to push the boundaries of taste without becoming too OTT. Sure, it's an un-PC blood and gorefest, but it has a sweet centre and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's pure entertainment from start to finish, with one of the best performances of Rutger Hauer's career in my opinion. Also, how freaking awesome was the soundtrack? It's one of the best in years, with its Apocalyptic, yet adventurous synth music.
I'm in love with this one, and I know I will be for many years to come. Jason Eisener is one of the most exciting directors on the planet right now. If you haven't seen this I urge you to watch it, as well as the Eisnener short Treevenge.
2) Drive - What can I say about Drive that hasn't already been said? It's been the wet dream of most critics and film fans alike since its release. One of my friends went to see it 10 times in the cinema. I only went the once, but it sure did leave an impression. It's brutal, it's slick and a prime example of a cool flick. Ryan Gosling put in a fantastic performance and deserves all of the plaudits he's receiving as a result.
This movie certainly has a lot going for it. For a start it's visually stunning, with a tremendous score to compliment the visual beauty. It also employs a sweet combination of the dramatic and violent, and for me, humor. But maybe it's just me that got a few laughs from it... Anyway, Gosling is a charismatic lead and he has a bright future ahead of him. I'd really like to see him work with a Tarantino or a David Lynch, just to see how they could use him.
Movie of 2011? Not for me. However, I can see why it would be for some people because it's outstanding.
3) Thirteen Assassins - I'm a huge Takeshi Miike fan and I hold a lot of his movies in the highest regard. Thirteen Assassins is the latest to have stolen my heart, and I'm going out on a limb here, I'd even say it's his best movie to date. It's an epic masterpiece and the greatest Samurai movie since the classics by Akira Kurowasa.
I was hooked from the start of this one, as it explored the culture of the Samurai, shady politics and the recruitment of our heroes as well as taking off on their journey. It's a neatly paced movie, and even though it doesn't deliver heavily on action for the first part, it's still an addictive watch. However, it most certainly makes up for action in the second part by cranking it up and delivering a 50 minute battle of epic proportions. For 50 minutes we get to watch 13 men take on an army of hundreds through exquisite battle scenes and ingenious tactics. I won't spoil the outcome, but it's a must see.
4) Red State - I'm a massive Kevin Smith fan. Through my teens up until this day he's been a hero of mine. His films in the past are among the best comedies I've ever seen. I loved every single one until the disaster that was Cop Out. I was disappointed by the latter for a couple of reasons; it wasn't funny and the action was sub par. After seeing it I thought Smith should just stick to what he's good at. So then I hear he's making a horror film and I started to feel a bit skeptical. Then I hear Michael Parks has signed up and I began warming to the idea because in my opinion he's the greatest actor to ever have lived, and even if his movies haven't been good, he's always been been good in them. Then I find out its influenced by the Westboro Baptist Church, who for me are a disturbing organisation but a very good premise for a horror film. Finally, Red State arrived and I went to see it and I was not disappointed at all.
It's one of those films that really makes you ask questions. I think it's a relevant social commentary and I kept asking myself if the Westboro Baptist Church would spawn or influence more extreme groups like the one in the movie. Who knows? Crazier things have happened throughout history. As a movie in itself though, social commentary aside - it kicked ass. The first half is slow burning and dialogue heavy, which has always been Smith's strength when writing and Parks' strength when delivering. Parks shines and horrifies here, and honestly, deserves an Oscar. The first execution of one of the victims isn't cool in any way. It isn't fun to watch. It's gritty and it's effective though.
When the cops arrive they're ordered to leave no survivors, so basically it appears the victims have no chance of getting away alive. The movie then takes a turn into a gritty action movie, with an intense shootout. John Goodman shines just as well here as Parks did in the first part, but ultimately its Parks who steals the show throughout the entire movie. I'll say no more as we're at risk of spoilers, but Red State was a great surprise that has proven Smith is a talented filmmaker with diversity and will be missed when he retires after his next film.
5) TrollHunter - For me this was a breath of fresh air as it brought some of the fantasy back into horror I feel the genre has been lacking for a couple of years. I feel with horror you have the potential to do anything, and with the countless amount of mythology, urban legend and monsters to work with, it astonishes me that not a lot of people want to explore it and let their imaginations run wild. TrollHunter wasn't a monster we haven't seen before, but it's one we haven't seen on the big screen for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I love slashers, zombies, vampires, ghosts, the odd remake, and everything else we see routinely, but horror can go so much further with imagination.
As a movie though and concept aside, it's definitely one of the best movies of the past few years. It's a remake I'm not looking forward to because I believe the original is so perfect. Even though we've seen trolls in movies before, this film puts a spin on the monster sub genre. It's steeped in Norwegian folklore and it has its share of laughs and action. It has a little bit of everything and I'm proud to be riding the bandwagon for this one.
Those are my top 5 films of this year. It was hard choosing as there has been a few more released this year I've loved. The movies that nearly made the list were:
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
I Saw The Devil